It’s been a few years since we last caught up with Jovanna Huguet. Since then, she’s been busy on screen (roles on Fringe, Smallville, you name it) and stage. But it was an especially big year for the Acting for Film & Television alum, so we knew it was time for an update.
“A lot of dreams came true,” she says. Co-creating and co-starring in The True Heroines, a new period/sci-fi web series… Guest-starring in an episode of the upcoming family sitcom Mr. Young, which premieres in March on YTV – the first multi-camera sitcom to be shot in Vancouver…
Oh, and she got married. It was a big year.
Thankfully, the newlywed found a little time in her busy schedule – it’s pilot season, after all – to speak with us and share some of her recent experiences, from creating a web series to taking her talents to the sitcom format.
Hi, Jovanna! Let’s start with The True Heroines. How did you come to be co-developing a web series in the first place, and how did this particular concept come about?
Jovanna: Well, for two years I danced in a cabaret show with a group of girls who ended up becoming some of my closest friends. During our time together we began developing ideas that we thought were really fun, because one day we wanted to have a show of our own.
We focused on telling stories through the eyes of women in an era where they really had no voice – the 1950s – as few have really told truthful stories of what life was like for housewives back then. Most shows that are set in that time period really focus on the male point of view, as I am sure you may have noticed. We also wanted to create something that would showcase us as performers – we’re all dancers and singers – so we added a live element to help tell the history of the characters. We chose the web medium because it was financially viable, and also a great jumping-off point for television.
Our goal is to come into the web series world on the heels of the Vancouver success stories Sanctuary and Riese. We knew that if we modeled our show off of them, we’d have something worth watching.
You shot the pilot last year… At what stage is the series now? Any release plans?
Jovanna: We did shoot the pilot last summer, and it was one of the best experiences of my life, by the way. We brought on some really amazing people for the project: extremely talented director and producers, some fantastic actors and guest stars, and a wonderful crew. Fortunately, we were able to call in a lot of favours, so even though parts 1 and 2 of the pilot ended up costing a lot more than we thought, the production quality is incredible. We shot the pilot on the RED camera, so going forward we will keep using it to maintain the look and feel of the show. Currently, we are looking to acquire funding for the next four episodes, so keep your fingers crossed for us! The pilot was shot in two parts and our goal is to release the story as a six-episode arc and then try to sell to a network or online outlet like SyFy.com. Depending on when we receive our funding, we will then be able to show you what our release schedule looks like.
You’ve been doing live shows in support of the series. Why? What’s the connection to the show?
Jovanna: With social media and branding being such a huge part of a successful show, we have created a live companion show to go along with the web series. Essentially, we wanted to create a show that helped to tell the history of the characters and the setting of the web series. The main characters are much more complex than just your typical ’50s housewives. They each have a unique, secret superpower, which serves to further accentuate how repressed the talents and abilities of the typical housewife could be back then. The story can really leave people wanting more, so we use the live show to help tell how the three heroines met during World War II, their dancing days in a European cabaret, and why they moved out to the suburbs when the war ended.
We use it as a way to get our Vancouver audience in touch with the relationships prior to the launch of the web series, and it helps us to continuously brand the show before we launch. We are looking into producing some of the live content into a web-format show as well. Of course you will be able to watch the web series independently of the live show, but it is another way to help us get the audience to fall in love with the characters.
As an actor, why go the web series route? Why take on a project like this and all the production and creative demands that come up with it on top of starring in it?
Jovanna: After attending VFS, I always wanted to have my own production company so that I would be able to tell stories that were important to me and that got me really charged as an actor. Being able to be in control of a project is really exciting and extremely different than just coming at it from an actor’s point of view.
I found it really hard to just focus on being an “actor” in this city. After the writers’ strike in 2006, the work was slow coming and trying to live as an actor was really hard. I found myself needing an outlet to be creative, perform, and make the films or shows that I wanted to make… not just play Girl #2 on a series. I was lucky to be surrounded by really creative and supportive people who helped to push me into thinking, “Why not create my own work?” Starring in my own series has been at the top of my wish list since I was a kid and this seemed like the perfect time to take advantage of it. With the web becoming more and more popular as a platform for new shows, essentially having no boundaries, it just felt like the right time.
Mr. Young… Traditional multi-camera sitcoms aren’t exactly a common sight in Vancouver. As an actor stepping into that environment, what’s it like? How is it different from what you’re used to?
Jovanna: Mr. Young was a fabulous experience. Up until then, I had only really played on sci-fi or dramatic sets, and sitcom is a very different beast. I find it to be a mixture of theatre and film because we actually get to rehearse the scenes for two day, and then perform in front of a live studio audience. It is different because you get to feel the audience react right away and you can really riff off their energy! I really hope that it stays in Vancouver for a while because it’s a hilarious show and something that all Vancouver actors should get to experience.
You’re a dancer, and you got to use that in the role – could you talk a bit about that? Who were you playing?
Jovanna: I got to play the role of Madame Krampinova, the Russian ballet teacher. Since I grew up as a ballet dancer, I really knew this character very well – too well, in fact! I had a lot of fun with her accent and all of her “isms”. It was so much fun to be on the other side of the kids and get to boss them around as this passionate teacher, as I truly know what it feels like!
I also had the opportunity to teach the lead characters how to do some basic ballet for the episode… and set choreography on them. This was a little bit of a challenge, since ballet is not exactly something that you can learn overnight, but the boys were really great and I was really excited to see their work!
Most episodes of the show shoot over two days, one in front of a live audience and one without. Does that change the way you approach a performance?
Jovanna: It doesn’t change the way I approach a performance at all. Honestly, on the day that there is no audience your energy must be as high as it would be on audience day… Having the audience there is really just a bonus!
One of the most common words on your website might be “dream”, so let’s talk about that: what does it take, for an actor, dancer, and all around creative person to achieve “the dream”?
Jovanna: If what you are doing is not your passion, you have nothing to lose, right? Achieving the dream is getting to do what you love every day of your life, coming home and feeling like you got to play all day, making “work” never feel like work. It is not an easy task to risk it and push for your dreams, but with hard work and perseverance, anyone can do it… and thankfully I feel like I am finally getting to live the dream for myself.